One of the highlights of holidays in south Devon has to be a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. It is such a great way to see the beautiful headlands and coves of Torbay. The journey takes you from the centre of Paignton to the beautiful town of Kingswear, where your ticket includes a foot ferry to stunning Dartmouth. As the train begins, children’s (and some adult’s) faces are soon pinned to the windows to take in the family beaches in Paignton. As you pass the headlands and inlets you promise yourself you’ll register the small deserted coves for later, hoping for a return visit. The next stage of the journey is over the Brunel Viaducts as you look down on the beautiful sweep of Broadsands Beach. As the train turns inland the scenery changes to woods and fields.
Although you can buy a ticket for the whole journey, it’s also possible to get on or off on various stops on the way, including the tiny Greenway Halt. This little platform lands you seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but if you follow the signs you can enjoy a lovely woodland walk which leads to the National Trust Greenway House. My three children are all under seven and although the 30 minute walk is a challenge, they have all made it with only minimal carrying help for my two year old. Greenway House was the holiday home of Agatha Christie and it is a lovely spot, well worth a visit.
If that doesn’t appeal, you can carry on the steam train to the evocative station at Kingswear and travel by ferry to Dartmouth. I would suggest you have your camera on standby for the whole trip, but particularly as you get to see the houses of Dartmouth clinging to the hillside. One of the unwritten rules of Torbay is that the passengers on the steam train always deserve a wave. We are fanatical in my family about stopping whatever we are doing to turn and wave whenever we hear the toot of the train. Because of this local habit, travelling on the steam train makes you feel like a temporary celebrity as people all turn and wave. On our first journey with our two year old, the poor boy waved at people, cows, sheep, cars, trees and even lampposts. But a sore arm from waving didn’t put him off and he’s already talking about the next time he’s allowed on the train.